From the Archives: Michael Azerrad (2002) (I)

His Book Could Be Your Life: Michael Azerrad by E-Mail

By Scott Woods (2002)

Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life is, for me, that rare breed of scene-and-place rock chronicle–as opposed to an all-over-the-map critique–that I actually didn’t get the urge to put down after a few dozen pages. As reportage on a specific musical moment, I’d rank OBCBYL in a league with Like Punk Never Happened (Dave Rimmer), England’s Dreaming (Jon Savage), and Rap Attack (David Toop), heady company indeed. In fact, I was sucked right in to Azerrad’s tome, absorbing stories about bands I’m no longer completely enamored with (Replacements and Hüsker Dü, both of whom I still like but almost never feel like listening to), learning more about bands I was anxious to know better (Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Minor Threat), and even compelled to read onward about a few I never cared for that much in the first place (Minutemen, Big Black, and Butthole Surfers). I confess to still having zero interest in the records of Mudhoney, Beat Happening, Fugazi, and Mission of Burma, but I’m at least willing to concede that Azerrad’s book wouldn’t have been complete without them (well, give or take Mudhoney…).

Originally published in 2001, Our Band Could Be Your Life is now available in paperback.

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Scott:     Why did you write this book?

Michael:     It came to me when I saw a ten-part television documentary on the history of rock music. I had watched the whole thing and was waiting for the segment on punk rock, which is the first rock movement that I directly experienced from the start. And sure enough, they got up to the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, and then they skipped straight from Talking Heads to…Nirvana. They skipped a whole decade! What happened to important American indie rock bands like Black Flag? Hüsker Dü? The Replacements? Sonic Youth? I was sure I’d somehow blacked out for ten minutes and missed that part. But of course I hadn’t (I gave up gas huffing long ago)–they had just totally ignored that incredibly interesting and influential community and time.

And I thought about how American indie was routinely left out of most rock histories, like it never happened, like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. “Someone ought to do something about that,” I thought to myself as I kicked back on my comfy couch. And then it occurred to me: “Do it yourself!”

But I knew this was a populous and sprawling community; a thorough profile of its every resident would take the better part of a lifetime. So I took a representational approach, choosing thirteen bands that not only illustrated key steps in the way American indie rock evolved throughout the ’80s, but epitomized a genre or a region; contributed a legendary and/or notorious personality to the world of rock; embodied a progression in the American indie scene; were influential musically or philosophically; or were just a goddamn great band. All of the bands I chose had several of those attributes.

It’s very important to stress that I didn’t consider bands strictly on the basis of musical worth–if I had, the bands profiled in Our Band Could Be Your Life would be somewhat different.

Scott:   It’s an exhaustively researched document. Can you tell me how you went about compiling your stories, then sitting down to write it, etc.? (Talk process.)

Michael:   My father gave me some great advice once: When you don’t know where to start, start anywhere. So I just jumped in. In retrospect, I did something very fortuitous: I interviewed Mike Watt first. Not only did his enthusiasm for the project propel me through the entire three-year project like a man shot out of a cannon, but the fact that he was involved persuaded a whole lot of hard-to-interview people that my heart was in the right place.

The book was amassed from interviews I personally conducted and material from magazines and fanzines of the period, which are listed in the bibliography, which also lists a few helpful books, too.

I’ve been doing this gig long enough that I knew how to get in touch with pretty much everybody in the book, and if I didn’t, I knew somebody who did, so that part was pretty easy.

Everyone was pretty much in agreement with how things happened, but occasionally, memories conflicted and I had to make a judgment call. I would base my decision on a combination of gut feeling, contemporary accounts of the same incident, and/or other people’s recollections; much more credence went to teetotalers, who I quickly discovered have much better memories.

I wrote all of the chapters simultaneously–if I scored a bunch of clips about the Butthole Surfers or managed to get an interview with Lou Barlow, then I would stop revising the Minor Threat chapter, for instance, and set about inserting information into their respective chapters. I would just insert the information in approximately the right chronological position within the chapter and come back later and fill in factual and stylistic blanks. The introductions to each chapter came later, as I began to set down how each band related to the previous one and to the story as a whole.

Our Band Could Be Your Life took about three years to write. That might seem like a long time, but it works out to about three months per band, which is pretty good, if you ask me. And while there was a ton of research involved, I’d say half of the time I spent on the book was devoted to revising–after all, the book had to flow.

Scott:   Was it difficult approaching your subjects, getting them to open up about an era that they helped define though were never quite given their due for (and also which, in some individual cases, self-destructed or fell apart in bitterness)? Did you find that the bands were willing or anxious to tell their stories, or did you have to pry stuff out of them?

Michael:   It wasn’t difficult at all. As you point out, they were never quite given their due, so they were eager to cooperate with the documentation of that period. I didn’t have to pry anything out of them, at least not more than I have to pry information out of any interview subject–after all, they had already agreed to be interviewed so they were prepared to talk. And if their past held any uncomfortable episodes, I found that so much time had passed that virtually everyone was able to be quite candid about what had happened, even if it didn’t reflect well on them. After all, they were younger then; when you reach your forties, it’s easy to look back on one’s youthful mistakes with a lot of objectivity. Some people did still hold powerful grudges, though–being in a band with someone for a few years can do that.

Scott:   You state your criteria fairly plainly in regards to which bands you chose to write about. Out of the numerous bands you didn’t devote chapters to, which ones (if any) were particularly hard to leave out? Also, which ones (if any) have you been most criticized for leaving out?

Michael:   Some people wonder why I didn’t include R.E.M. and the Pixies. Well, R.E.M. was technically not an indie band since all but their first single was distributed by major labels; they enjoyed advantages that the bands in OBCBYLcould only dream about. Nonetheless, I made sure to sprinkle stories about this pivotal and ubiquitous band throughout the book. The Pixies were a transcendently excellent and profoundly influential band and I love them to bits, but they just plain never released a record on an American independent label. And they concentrated their touring on Europe and the U.K., effectively excluding them from the community to which the book is so pointedly devoted.

Still, a couple of reviewers, both of whom know better, wondered why the Pixies weren’t in Our Band…The subtitle of the freakin’ book is Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991, yet somehow these folks managed to miss that. I don’t know how much clearer I could have made it.

Many reviews, even the favorable ones, couldn’t resist listing bands the writer felt were wrongly excluded. That was inevitable. Not surprisingly their choices always seemed to be personal favorites rather than bands who made a large and lasting impact on the scene or its music. One guy was miffed because I left out Trotsky Icepick.

I knew that kind of thing was going to happen well before I even started the book, that some reviewers would try to prove their superior knowledge of the subject rather than take the book on its own terms. That’s typical of virtually all book reviewing, but indie rock has always had a very big “more knowledgeable than thou” streak. As with sports, it’s primarily a guy thing, a venue for a peculiarly masculine brand of informational one-upmanship, like trying to top each other with baseball stats.

Bottom line, I’m very confident about my choices and I’m very happy with how the book came out, and that’s all that matters to me.

Scott:   Did you know right from the start who you were going to cover? Or did this happen after a process of research?

Michael:   I was already pretty familiar with the topic and the list of bands came out in pretty much one blurt–it seemed pretty obvious.

Scott:   What are your own thoughts on the following:


  • the GermsA very challenging and influential band which broke up before the 1981-1991 time frame of the book. There’s something about the early L.A. punk scene that doesn’t align with the period I’m talking about–it belongs more to the safety pins and mascara era.


  • FlipperA very good band that proved that dumb music and smart lyrics could work but I can’t really say they really meet the criteria listed above.


  • Bad ReligionTheir early stuff is really good; thereafter they began to repeat themselves–and not in that wonderfully addictive way that great old blues musicians often do. Extra points for starting Epitaph, but between 1981 and 1991, SST’s influence was infinitely larger, and that’s how I made that call.


  • Bad BrainsWell, they invented hardcore. But they did their best and most influential work before the time frame of the book and weren’t a pillar of the community the way Minor Threat and Dischord were.


  • XA great band. They made a couple of indie records before the time frame of the book and went major thereafter. Again, they’re more part of that early L.A. punk scene.


  • the CrampsI saw them on July 4th, 1977. Lux was wearing a big Uncle Sam hat and he took it off, revealing a two-foot tall column of blue hair. It was life-changing. The Cramps were always sui generis–they stood apart from any pack, really.


  • Meat PuppetsOf all the bands not in OBCBYL, that was by far the toughest to leave out. Adding one more SST band would have made it an SST book. So ultimately, it came down to deciding to put them in and drop either Black Flag, the Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr. And each of those bands holds a very crucial place in the arc of the book. I really hope that some day someone tells the Meat Puppets story.

    Scott:   How would you characterize the differences (musical, political, whatever) between the artists covered in your book and the punks that immediately preceded them? (i.e., Ramones, Patti Smith, Dead Boys, et al.)

    Michael:   A lot of the differences spring from the simple fact that the three bands you name above were New York-based. The iconic early American punk bands were overwhelmingly based in Los Angeles or New York but one of the greatest points made by the American indie movement in the ’80s was that great musical art can be made anywhere, not just in the coastal media centers. At the time, that was a radical idea–we take it for granted now.

    The original New York punks were also not explicitly (and barely even implicitly) political, whereas the ’80s indie punks could be very outspoken, especially the Minutemen, not to mention countless hardcore bands. American indie’s anti-corporate stance was also at variance with the early punks, who signed to major labels at the earliest possible opportunity.

    Musically, the original punks cleaved to early rock & roll and Phil Spector’s girl-groups as a benchmark of rock value whereas much of the ’80s indie punk movement was concerned with the rather quixotic pursuit of a completely original sound. Either that or copying Minor Threat.

    Finally, the New York scene was a little older, more druggy and arty and so was their audience. And they didn’t tour as relentlessly as their successors–there wasn’t as much of an almost proletarian (or perhaps Puritan) work ethic.

    Scott:   Is there a parallel to be drawn between the progression from CBGBs punk to U.S. hardcore, and U.K. punk (Pistols, Clash, et al.) to U.K. post-punk (Wire, Gang of Four, et al.)?

    Michael:   Socially, I don’t think so, because the audiences for U.S. hardcore and U.K. post-punk were different–hardcore was disaffected suburban kids and post-punk was an artier, more collegiate bunch.

    The U.K. analogue to U.S. hardcore wasn’t post-punk. As Ian MacKaye notes in the book, Neanderthal punk rock like U.K. Subs, Sham 69, Crass, etc. was the stuff that a lot of punk rock kids were listening to in the late ’70s and early ’80s. He likened the cross-Atlantic punk relationship to a tennis game, where the U.S. served punk rock to the U.K., the U.K. came back with the Damned, Sex Pistols, Clash, etc., the U.S. came back with hardcore, and the U.K. came back with the Neanderthal bands.

    But the U.S. hardcore bands were definitely listening to post-punk–for instance, Wire’s Pink Flag album was hugely influential and Gang of Four sounds eventually surfaced in post-hardcore. Those sounds only surfaced in U.S. music once hardcore’s musicians and audience had aged a bit.

    Scott:   Have you received much feedback from any of the artists since the book was published? What overall has been the response from them?

    Michael:   I’ve received lots of feedback from the people in the book, and it’s all been really good–I think a lot of people felt really ignored by the history books and really appreciated the recognition even if it wasn’t 100% flattering. A couple of people specifically thanked me for writing it; Bob Mould asked to play at my book party and did an incredible acoustic set; Mission of Burma stated that it was part of the reason they reunited. I didn’t write to please the subjects of the book but it’s always nice to hear nice things about one’s work.

    Scott:   What do you make of the solo work of Bob Mould and Paul Westerberg? Does much, or any, of it interest you?

    Michael:   It interests me because so much of my self image is, for better or worse, tied up in rock & roll. I started playing in a band when I was seven and my life has been inextricably intertwined with the music ever since. It’s one of my key life gauges. (I’m in a band now–we’re called the King of France. You can check out some of our music at the King of France Web site. We’re shopping for a label right now.) The first Keith Richards solo album was a key record because it was the blueprint for how to age rockingly. But Richards is from another generation and people like Westerberg and Mould are more my age. I have to admit their albums don’t spend a lot of time in my CD player but I’m always interested to hear how they’re coping with each new stage of life.

    Scott:   How about some of Sonic Youth’s more recent work?

    Michael:   I think that, like free jazz, much of Sonic Youth’s more recent work is much more fun to play than to listen to. It sure seems like the more conventionally structured Murray Street is an acknowledgement of that.

    Scott:   Any thoughts on Amy Phillips’s Voice review of Murray Street in which she begs the band to break up? Do you agree with her that “the spores have been festering since 1995”?

    Michael:   What struck me most about that piece was the fact that it would have been unthinkable even five years ago. There is a new generation of music listeners out there who have not been indoctrinated into the legend-cult of Sonic Youth and who feel free to opine–with impunity–that Sonic Youth is an emperor who wears no clothes. It’s like the fall of an empire. Talk about “Kill Yr Idols.”

    It’s funny, some people read my chapter on Sonic Youth as an assault on them. It’s true, I can’t think of any other journalist who hasn’t looked the other way regarding their talent for self-promotion, for fear of looking uncool. But I thought Sonic Youth’s strategy was not only brilliant but necessary–at the time there was simply no other way to get the word out. Sonic Youth made some amazing music in their day and I think Our Band Could Be Your Life makes that abundantly clear.

    Scott:   What would you most like readers to come away with from this book?

    Michael:   I don’t think even the best writers can engender a premeditated, consistent reaction to their work–books always say at least a little more than the writer intended. I always wonder what I put into the book without even knowing it. That said, I hope that people come away with the idea that’s encapsulated in the title: that you can live your life like these bands conducted their careers, that you can Do It Yourself–whatever “It” may be, not just music; that success doesn’t necessarily mean making a lot of money and getting the attention of vast corporate entities. It’s also important to stress that making good rock music is not the exclusive province of telegenic people who don’t seem to come from any specific geographical location. But I think the most important thing is that readers are reminded that these bands even existed.

    Scott:   What are your own personal Top 5 albums and Top 5 songs from the ’80s? (These don’t have to be titles or artists from your book.)

    Michael:   Oh man, I know this will change tomorrow, but here’s where it is today:

  • Albums
    Let It Be, Replacements
    Surfer Rosa, Pixies
    It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy
    Rain Dogs, Tom Waits
    Brave Words, the Chills
  • Songs
    “Unsatisfied,” Replacements
    “Rock the Bells,” LL Cool J
    “How Soon Is Now?,” The Smiths
    “Into the Groove,” Madonna
    “Once In A Lifetime,” Talking HeadsScott:   The book has been widely and positively reviewed–the jacket on your paperback version contains many thumbs-up notices. Did you come across any negative reviews of note? Are you happy overall with the reception the book has received?

    Michael:   I’m extremely happy with the reception for the book. People really seem to get it. I didn’t come across any truly notable negative reviews–there were only a couple out of something like eighty that I know of–and it really seemed like the writers had an agenda other than evaluating the book on its own terms, so I didn’t take them too hard. I e-mailed one veteran fanzine writer about the way he based his negative review on factually incorrect claims about the book. He admitted he had only skimmed it before writing the review. And we wonder why people hate critics.

    Scott:   Christgau’s Voice review was mixed, though more on the positive side, I think (he gets quoted on the paperback, after all!). Your general thoughts on his review…

    Michael:   Actually, Christgau’s review was hardly mixed. Right at the outset, he declared the review was a “rave.” The thing is, the things he liked about it were very easy to convey and so took up very little room in the piece. His mostly well-taken reservations, which he acknowledged were minor, were more difficult to express, so they simply took up more of the word count. It was extremely flattering that he devoted an entire page to the book.

    Scott:   How do you respond to his criticism that your approach isn’t perhaps personal enough? (“Better if, like Gina Arnold, he’d put himself into the book, describing the hopes, passions, alienations, and disillusions of a fandom that for some manly reason he never fully admits.”)

    Michael:   Well, as the Dean himself admits, Gina Arnold already took that approach, so I see no reason to duplicate it. I felt that the ’80s indie rock story merited an objective profile, not an anecdotal, factually challenged “I was there and you weren’t” type of book. The indie world is renowned for being intensely cloistered and I wanted no part of that–it was supposed to be inclusive. That said, there’s a lot of passion in the book–I just don’t beat people over the head with it. The passion is in the details.

    I laughed out loud at the word “manly,” by the way. I’m just not a macho dude.

    Scott:   How about Christgau’s criticism that you romanticize indie (the process, the aesthetic) while seeming “unaware that majors also differ from each other.” (He never actually uses the word “romanticize,” but this is how I read it.)

    Michael:   I disagree about romanticizing indie labels–virtually every chapter has some kind of tale about getting ripped off or at least short-changed by an indie. And I don’t hesitate to say some of the music wasn’t any good.

    The fact that some major labels do differ from each other (or at least they did in the period under discussion) has no pertinence to the subject at hand. The book simply was not about major labels. It could not be all things to all people.

    Scott:   I’m curious how/where you did discover this music. Was it something you were into at the time, or did you come to it a little later? Was there one revelatory experience that changed everything for you?

    Michael:   I discovered punk in the summer of 1977, when a friend returned from a vacation in London with an armful of 45s by bands with intense names like the Clash and the Damned and the Sex Pistols. Finally, here was some exciting rock music that was made by people roughly my age. Soon I was heading out to CBGBs and Hurrah to see bands like the Dead Boys, Ramones, the Cramps, Pere Ubu and many others–all while I was still underage!

    I first discovered this music from the NYU radio station. They were playing “Einstein’s Day” by Mission of Burma and it staggered me. It was immediately obvious they were not only American but not from New York or L.A., which was intriguing. I saw most of the bands in the book live but I wouldn’t say I was exclusively a full-fledged citizen of the indie nation–I was into a lot of different kinds of music at the time, and still am. I saw indie music as being just as valid and rich and interesting as world music or new music or post-punk or downtown jazz or any of the other things that were exploding at the time.

    Scott:   Do you think there is, or ever will be, an indie scene as vital as the period you cover in your book?

    Michael:   I don’t like that kind of question because history never fully repeats itself, and thank heavens for that, because it would be a pretty boring world otherwise. It’s like asking whether there will ever be another Beatles. Older generations have a propensity for attempting to trivialize new youth cultural movements by unfavorably comparing them to their own, and I’m loathe to fall into that trap. Each movement is unique unto itself, with its own, to pretentiously quote James Joyce, ineluctable modality. So no, there will never be an indie scene as vital as the period I cover in my book–but there will be some sort of scene, indie or not, that will rock our world in a completely different way. The trick is to be open to hearing it.

    Scott:   What new music interests you today? (Please be specific: bands, albums, songs, etc.)

    Michael:   I don’t have much use for most of the so-called “New Garage” bands but I do really like the White Stripes–their music gets a lot of play-for-pure-pleasure on my stereo. I also like Interpol’s debut album Turn on the Bright Lights, the Anti-Pop Consortium, Orthrelm, Jurassic 5, Citizen Bird’s self-titled debut, Flaming Lips, Jim O’Rourke’sInsignificance album, Glassjaw, Outkast. A lot of people claim that music sucks right now. But they’re just not looking very hard.

    Scott:   I’m curious to know what you think of two of the more commercial punk bands of the last ten years: Green Day and Blink-182.

    Michael:   Well, I think they’re terrible but the fate of punk rock doesn’t break my heart whatsoever. Punk made its mark, it served its purpose and then, like any avant garde movement these days, it got thrown to the commercial dogs. There’s plenty of new stuff to explore; failing that, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Singles Going Steady.

    Scott:   What are your thoughts, if any, on some of the other recent books that (coincidentally) cover some of the stuff you cover in your book? (i.e., Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins; We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen; Salad Days by Charles Romalotti.)

    Michael:   It’s no coincidence that all these books have come out recently. The reason is, it’s time–classical punk is safely dead and when something dies, that’s when the eulogies start.

    To be honest, I’m too burned out on the subject to read other people’s accounts of ’80s punk. I like many other styles and eras of music and I don’t want to dally in any one period overlong. I did see an advance version of Mark Andersen’sDance of Days before my colleague Mark Jenkins got involved and it was a very vivid, personal account of what went down. I haven’t read the revised version, which reportedly took a slightly different angle. I did speed-read We Got the Neutron Bomb and while it stands in the long shadow of the iconic Please Kill Me, it was fun.

    Scott:   What rock critics and/or rock books have been most inspiring to you? Did any particular writer or book inspire you to become a writer yourself?

    Michael:   In retrospect the book that really inspired me to become a rock critic was Lillian Roxon’s 1969 Rock Encyclopedia which I read cover to cover when I was 11 or 12. (Yes, I am a geek.) Then I devoured an anthology of articles about the Rolling Stones; soon I was reading Creem and Hit Parader and later Rolling Stone, all of which were inspiring. However, I didn’t even think about writing about rock music until my early 20s–no one inspired me to do it, really, it’s just that an astute woman named Lyn Healy made me start. (Long story.)

    I’m most inspired by any writer who does something good. There are not many writers I’d specifically single out, but here are a few: Fred Goodman, who wrote the excellent Mansion on the Hill, for his no-nonsense savvy and go-the-extra-mile reporting; Kurt Loder, for his affinity for music and his excellent grasp of language; Jon Pareles is astonishingly erudite, omnivorous and uncannily on-target; Peter Guralnick is just a great, great writer; and there’s a guy at the Boston Phoenix named Carly Carioli who’s really perceptive and provocative–look up his stuff on the paper’s Web site. There are also some musicians who are keenly astute observers of rock music, and to have a conversation with them about it is extremely enlightening and inspiring: John Flansburgh, Charles Thompson, Courtney Love and Peter Buck all spring to mind.

    Legs McNeil once told me something that really influenced me–I ran into him at the WFMU Record Fair here in NYC just as I was starting to write Our Band Could Be Your Life. He asked what I was up to and I told him I was writing a book about the American indie scene in the ’80s. He shot me a look of horror and asked, “You’re not going to write about the music, are you?”

    I thought he was going to pull rank and dis the punks who followed in the wake of his buddies, but I kept my head and just asked him what he meant by that. And he replied, “Just write about their lives and the music will come out of that.” Wow. That made a huge impression. I did wind up writing about the music somewhat, but tried to keep the descriptions relevant to moving the plot forward; it was a neat way out of the old “dancing about architecture” problem.

    I also admire many non-music journalists, notably the classic old New Yorker writers A.J. Liebling and Joseph Mitchell. They rule. It’s also extremely important to read plenty of fiction.

    Scott:   Joe Carducci is mentioned frequently in your book. His own book, Rock and the Pop Narcotic covers some of the same bands, though in a much different way. His is more of an aesthetic critique, and less of an actual history. Any thoughts on his book? Did he alter your perceptions on hardcore, punk, rock and roll, etc?

    Michael:   Joe’s book is brilliant. It’s a profoundly astute analysis of what makes rock music work–he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves, open up the hood and take apart the engine. Among many different kinds of music, I grew up on the Stones, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple but I had never read any considered analysis of what made bands like that tick. The fact that someone as intelligent as Joe so thoughtfully approached these bands really revolutionized people’s perceptions of that music. It’s not an easy read, nor will anyone agree with him completely, but it’s provocative as hell, which is something to which all writers should aspire. He gets into a whole lot of different facets of rock music, from labels to criticism, and it’s all fascinating and knowledgeable. I could go on and on, but if you’re a rock critic, or just a serious fan, you have to read his book.

    Scott:   Also, what do you make of Carducci’s basic premise that stuff necessarily gets watered down–becomes a “narcotic”–when it reaches a pop audience?

    Michael:   Well, generally speaking, you can’t reach a pop audience without watering down your art. That’s because music is simply not an important part of most people’s lives, which is something that many music fans find difficult to comprehend. The fact is, most people are unwilling or unable to be challenged by music; radio and major labels go with what most people like, so you get bland music in the mainstream.

    There are minor fluctuations in the overall artistic worth of mass pop but generally it’s a waste of time to wring one’s hands about its aesthetic value. If you’re looking for good music, don’t complain because you don’t hear it on K-Rock–you’ll have to go out and actively find good, challenging music, because the great chunks of demographic out there don’t have the time or inclination to support it.

    That said, when actual good music does hit the mainstream, it can get watered down either through repetition or unfortunate contexts (such as commercials or lame movies). But it doesn’t lose its power simply by virtue of becoming popular. In fact, some rock music actually gains power because it’s popular, like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” for example–sure it’s a damning protest of war and the American culture of privilege, but the fact that it also went Top Ten is frickin’ significant. And who could forget the thrill of hearing a song as killer as “Smells like Teen Spirit” all over the place in the fall of ’91?

    The indie rock thing brings up a lot of eternal questions about the validity of challenging, idiosyncratic art over more popular forms. But we can discuss that some other time if you want.

9 thoughts on “From the Archives: Michael Azerrad (2002) (I)

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